Industrial espionage is obviously in every shop assistant's mind in these times of economic turmoil - especially so at Mannings where staff have a keen eye for suspect customers. A couple ventured to one of their stores recently to buy camera films. Being price-savvy, the pair made a point of noting down the prices to compare with other retailers. Standing in full view of the checkout desk, they were bemused at the commotion this caused. The couple defended their right to shop freely in this capitalist haven, note-taking or not. At this point they were advised politely that such spying activity would not be tolerated and if they continued, they would be escorted from the store. It seems speculators are not the only threat to Hong Kong's economy. Film-buying tourists: be warned. By the book We know wild horses could not force Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa to meet his colonial predecessor Chris Patten during his visit in October. But will he actually read East And West, Mr Patten's new volume which slams Chinese leaders' past and present? In answer, Mr Tung's minions faxed us the following illuminating reply: 'Mr Tung enjoys reading. His main area of interest is economics.' Obviously the Chief Executive has absorbed volumes from this pastime. His staff have mastered the art of doublespeak with their non-answer. Nut cracker Observing court etiquette is one thing, but some people are going over the top to impress our judges. One gallery-goer, as is the norm, rose to his feet and bowed courteously in unison with others as the judges entered the room. However, this pundit bowed so low and deep he head-butted an innocent bystander, making a loud cracking noise when their skulls met. He apologised profusely for bowing so deeply. Some people will stoop so low in the name of justice these days. Bum ticket It seems the tourist association's campaign to transform Hong Kong's surly service industry into a warm and fuzzy welcome wagon never made it to the high seas. Either that or ferry staff are ignoring their televised pleas to 'make our visitors feel welcome'. When one tourist decided to invest in the almost-triple price 'deluxe' ticket to Lamma so she could sit out on the deck in sunshine, she found there were only a smattering of seats outside, all of them full. But the sealed, frigidly air-conditioned interior was a veritable buffet of tables and chairs. Plucking one from near the door, the tourist moved it to the deck and sat back to enjoy the view. But her vision was soon obscured by a sailor's apoplectic face. Screaming in Cantonese, he demanded she return the usurped seat to its proper place. When she objected that she had paid to sit outside, he yelled louder, ordering her to go inside if she did not wish to stand. The annoyed visitor dug in her heels (or rather her bottom) and refused to move. The holiday-makers on deck watched in amazement as the man in the little sailor suit turned purple and unleashed a torrent of abuse on the seat-shifter. Finally, one shaken passenger unearthed an extra seat and the standoff ended. Hong Kong. Hassles never cease. G'day, PAL The Philippines must be in a bad way these days, judging by its latest bid to please passengers on PAL, its flagship airline. Two passengers on a Hong Kong-Manila flight recently were bemused by the handout of pencils rather than peanuts. Even more entertaining was the decor emblazoned on the pencils. Could it be the Philippines has fallen so low as to mimic a nation famed for its bouncing marsupials and falling dollar? The writing tools were brightly decorated with kangaroos. What next? Qantas pen sets with pictures of Manila slums?